Dining out can burrow deep into the shallow wallets of college students, but luckily, Austin’s food trailer scene now provides a cheap yet gourmet alternative. Even the Travel Channel’s culinary bad boy, Anthony Bourdain, has declared the city’s food trucks and trailers “probably the single most exciting, distinguishing factor in town.” Street vendors are no longer defined by greasy taco trucks or suspect hot dog carts. Instead, they are economical, mobile kitchens housing a new generation of talented cooks who embrace entrepreneurship, imagination, and a range of ethnic cuisines. With this new generation of eateries, students can put down the instant ramen, because eating an exceptional, al fresco dinner out for less than $15 has never been more possible.
Odd Duck Farm to Trailer1219 S. Lamar Blvd.; Tues.-Sat. 5:30-10 p.m.
Truck…chef…award-winning. Odd Duck owner Bryce Gilmore makes these terms flow together, having recently earned a prestigious Food & Wine Best New Chef award. His trailer highlights seasonal foods, all sourced exclusively from Austin-area farms. The blackboard menu changes daily to reflect available ingredients, but the wood grill is usually involved in most preparations to create a smoky bite in the delightful small plates. This is picnic-table fine dining, and it is perfectly acceptable to lick your fingers after devouring a dish like the grilled Texas quail.
Three Little Pigs1209 Rosewood Ave.; Tues.-Sat. 5-10 p.m.
Chef Raymond Tatum, a veteran of the Austin restaurant scene, serves up small helpings of Southern comfort classics with subtle twists that warm the soul. Three dishes consistently linger on his small menu: the pork belly slider, cracklin’ bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and Asian fried chicken. Tatum is routinely inventing new dishes to add to this delectable lineup, but definitely sample his unique version of good ‘ol fried chicken, which rivals any other in Austin. It’s moist with perfect crunchy skin that is complemented with tangy, sweet chile sauce and spicy wasabi mayo. With any luck, no big bad wolf will blow this trailer over.
The Peached Tortilla 2.0Guadalupe & Dean Keeton streets; Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
The Peached Tortilla 2.0 stands out in a town already full of tacos and sliders with its Asian-fusion spin on these street classics. Its second location, wedged between The Hole in the Wall and Cream Vintage on the Drag, is prime. Founder Eric Silverstein happily marries Japanese, Chinese, and Malaysian cuisines from his childhood in Tokyo with Southern soul from his adolescence in Atlanta. The BBQ Brisket taco is a satisfying marriage of tender brisket topped with creamy slaw and a sweet peach barbecue sauce that is reminiscent of the Texas Hill Country. Alternatively, try the succulent pork belly banh mi slider for a more exotic bite. Better yet, order both.
The Jalopy15th & San Antonio streets; Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. 12-4 p.m.
Nic Patrizi, a McCombs graduate, abandoned finance and instead launched The Jalopy. Patrizi’s “big mack truck” serves as a canvas for local artists and makes it hard to miss. Every time you approach the counter, Patrizi and his cohort greet you warmly and enthusiastically. Order their most popular sandwich, the Caprese, which features their moist, rotisserie chicken, thick slices of Roma tomato, mozzarella, and fresh lemon-parsley pesto on toasted French bread. Or sample any of their inventive sandwiches. Whatever you decide, when your sandwich is up, they’ll shoot it down a slide that adds to the charm and whimsy here.
4917 Airport Blvd. and 801 Barton Springs Rd.; Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.*; Fri. 11:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.*; Sat. 12- 8:30 p.m.* ; Sun. 12-7 p.m., or until they run out of fresh ingredients
Sushi from a food trailer may sound dicey, but Sushi-A-Go-Go is a prime example of a mobile food vendor redefining street food. Every item is handmade-to-order in an exquisitely clean (albeit small) kitchen with fresh, savory ingredients. The crew suggests the popular Sunshine or the Dynamite rolls, but the extensive menu offers a range of original maki rolls that will satisfy even timid taste buds. Sample the Longhorn Roll, filled with grilled streak, cream cheese, and avocado and garnished with Texas green sauce, if you’re feeling tame.
Erin Krenek, BA ’06, blogs about her eating adventures (and records her recipes) using home-delivered baskets of local, seasonal produce for a year at Wave My Wooden Spoon.
Photo by Armando Vera III.
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